WordCamp Portland 2011 (part 2)

Day 2! To clarify on two items on the schedule: custom post types is for when you’re doing CMS-level work such as tracking items in a store. Post Formats is more towards end-users, a new feature that allows you to tell WordPress to format different types of posts (standard post, aside, image, etc) in different ways.

Also, there’s a local wordpress user group here in Portland that meets monthly.

Also, there’s a “happiness table” with WordPress experts offering to answer questions you have.

Also, there’s a job board for folks looking for blogging related work.

Also, thanks to the sponsors and volunteers!

Jane Wells @ Automattic: What’s Coming in WordPress 3.3 and Town Hall Q&A:

  • Jane is one of the UX folks working on WordPress core
  • A bit of background: Jane’s first wordcamp was Wordcamp Portland, where she showcased the changes in WordPress 2.7, and is now showing the changes in 3.3
  • wpdevel.wordpress.com is the officially wordpress developer blog.
  • New in 3.3: the sidebar navigation now has menus rather than having to click into sub-menus.
  • More work in the admin bar, making it useful to connect the front end and the back end.
  • Improving the help menus (more readable, more relevant).
  • Improving the widget screen for larger screens.
  • Improving tablet support for the backend (not targeting phones yet, that’s a whole other kettle of fish)
  • In general going for a more responsive design.
  • Take a cue from gmail and similar, there will be hinting calling out new features.
  • Image handling is MUCH IMPROVED, using a new uploader.
  • Media management revamp is still not done, though. Some minor changes, but not the big one.
  • Inline feature update log (not ready yet, but being worked on), so you can see the changes in the latest version of WP.
  • New User “Welcome” to help new users with a lot of the initial defaults — most users don’t really do an exhaustive search of the admin panel to learn how to change defaults.
  • A quick call-out: there is a setting theme developers can add to a theme to tell the editor to respect the settings of your theme (fonts, line width, etc.), if you want your editor to act more “WYSIWYG”
  • Question came up about styling per post from someone still using tables for layout: You need to learn CSS. At this point, if you don’t know CSS, your HTML is almost worthless. (Preach it!)
  • Development: they tend to test features as a plugin, then if that goes well, patch it into core.
  • Question about the file url setting in the media uploader: they’ve got “none”, but the point of the attachment url and post url is workflow (attachment url is basically to have a smaller shot that links to a larger image; post url is useful for when you want to keep images skinned to your blog, not just the image).
  • Request: better PDF uploading support? Agreed, it would be great, but it hasn’t been a priority since there are other ways to upload PDFs.
  • Random anecdote: one of the reasons for the UI refresh in 3.2: when they were at SXSW, they saw a preview of the new blogger UI, and the new blogger post screen looked just like the old UI for WordPress. This has/had been happening a lot, so they decided it was time to prioritize the planned refresh. (This is anecdotal, not some sort of official reasoning.)
  • Feature scope for a new version is generally decided communally on an IRC channel, and the public are welcome to chime in.
  • Request: that the wpdevel blog gets more usage (used to be more active).
  • Favorite feature .com has that .org does not: email subscriptions (even has jabber support)! Also, automatic twitter/social media broadcasting.

Oh no, Voodoo Doughnuts delayed again! Hopefully after the next session.

Blogging/Content Productivity: How do you write? Workflow? Tools? Discussion of EditFlow:

  • General discussion session, asking about productivity and any tips and tricks and tools people have.
  • Example workflow: text editor, keep a file of drafts sync’d on Dropbox, so you can write from anywhere, and uses markdown.
  • [Personally, I’m curious on Scrivener for this.]
  • Idea to Draft to Post: the amount of time can vary wildly. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s weeks or months (or it stalls and is years).
  • Pinboard: similar to Delicious but not slowly dying (oh snap!). Useful for collected link posts.
  • EditFlow demo: grew out of a desire to manage and track external workflows across multiple people and projects.
  • Able to bring in a lot of that workflow into WordPress.
  • Features like custom statuses (“waiting for feedback” etc, instead of just “posted” or “draft”)
  • [This sounds like a godsend for a group blog/e-magazine, though I’m not sure how useful it would be for single user blogs.]
  • Calendar tools for viewing a story queue for scheduled stories/posts.
  • Also story budget tracking.
  • Editorial metadata (due date, location, photographer, needs, contact info, et cetera)
  • Looking for feedback from people willing to road test this plugin.
  • (Now they’re explaining a bit about how this could be useful as a one or two person blog vs a large team.)
  • As a single user, one of the big useful features is tracking drafts more efficiently. Custom statuses, and queues.
  • This actually makes a lot of sense: custom status of “pitch” for a trackable one-line pitch of your idea. Then maybe you have 20 minutes later, so you outline it, and then save it as “outline”. A few weeks later you have time and energy for writing a long form post, you then filter for outlines, and can immediately get to what you want. (Nice.)
  • The calendar view is also useful as a single user because it provides a visual tool to view when you’re actually posting — as was pointed out in the keynote, steady, consistent posting is the key to growing a readership, and this makes it easier to see this.
  • Request: showing due dates on the calendar: Developer: Check back next week, next version! (Yay for responsive developers, we’ll see if he was tongue-in-cheek.)
  • Request: Color-coding statuses. It’s possible easily enough (each post is wrapped in a status-specific class on the post list page in WP, already), just hasn’t been worked out yet.
  • Request: usage statistics (so you can see how many words you wrote through all revisions, and time tracking).
  • Request: RSS feeds to track status updates on posts (pitch to outline, outline to draft, etc).
  • Recommendation: using the new fullscreen feature in WP is great for no-distractions.
  • A lot of folks still use offline text editors for various reasons (I use Scrivener for long-form for the research note-taking, others use Evernote).
  • One thing currently lacking in EditFlow is documentation, and they’re going to work on that.
  • For EditFlow: treat it as a supplement to project management tools, not a replacement.
  • There isn’t a clear answer as to how to keep motivated for blogging. There’s two camps: those that push a schedule for a rhythm; and those that push the notion that “people share your content because it’s awesome, not because it was posted on Wednesday”. [Personally, I feel like it’s a mixture of the two: if you aren’t posting regularly, you don’t get the audience. If you aren’t posting quality content, you don’t retain the audience and they don’t share your content.]
  • Suggestion: go read Caterina Fake’s post FOMO and Social Media
  • It’s easy to get caught up in the noise: follow the people who are important to you and are consistently rewarding: if it’s actually important, it’ll still come up on your radar. The result is more signal, less noise, and clearer topics for writing.

Post Formats: Using Your Blog to Write About Anything:

  • Presented by Andrew Spittle (@andrewspittle), who works as a happiness engineer for Automattic.
  • Post Formats are a way in wordpress of designating a little bit of metadata about a post, so you can customize how different types of content is displayed.
  • Really simple, but requires your theme supports it (but is easy for a theme to add, and a lot are adding them). (Just add a easily cut-and-pasteable function into functions.php.)
  • Nine formats supported: aside, link, status, standard, gallery, image, video, chat, audio
  • Formats are not currently extendable (these 9 are what there are), because they wanted standardization on them so themes could more easily support the options.
  • [Personally, I’d love to see a twitter plugin that pulls and archives tweets as status-format posts.]
  • Post formats are easily re-skinnable.
  • The design can fit your content, without having to come up with one universal format. Different types of content have different needs.
  • Useful suggestion: tie post formats into categories, so users can quickly see all (for instance) images, or galleries, or quotes.
  • If you’re trying to convince your authors, show a site that is already using it, and then point out how easy it is to add by showing the “format” section within a “Create Post” page.
  • The big “shift” in using post formats is that blogging becomes more about what you want to share, rather than just “oh I need to write something now.”
  • One flaw to post formats is that it comes down to each theme as to what formats are supported. (The bright side is the content is still there, you just lose that custom formatting if you switch to a theme without that format support.)
  • Post format is a meta field in the database, so it’s persistent (if you set it to audio, then switch to another theme that doesn’t support audio, then switch to another theme that DOES have audio support, WP will still remember that it was set as an audio format before)
  • Changes to the “create post” page based on the post format is being discussed, but not implemented yet (and probably won’t be for a while, as it’s a BIG change, and they want to make sure they do it right). [This would be a great feature, imho. If I post a quote, I don’t need a title, I need a field for the quote, and a field for citation.]
  • You can’t currently filter your posts list (on the backend) by format, so also using them as categories seems like a good option (most useful if you’re not actively using categories for something else already).
  • A number of the themes in the Theme Showcase on wordpress already support post formats. (And all the free themes on wordpress.com are in a public repository in the SVN.) Just do a search with a filter for post formats.
  • [I’m pretty excited about post formats. It’s one of the things I like most about tumblr, and I’m glad to see that functionality in a self-hosted option.]

(Yay doughnuts!)

Adding Video/Audio/Animation to Your Blog:

  • Leader didn’t show up. Awwww.

And that wraps up WordCamp Portland 2011! (Since my last session aborted, I opted to skip out a little early and missed the wrap-up.) Thanks again to all the organizers and presenters, it was a lot of fun, and I was glad to be able to make it to the event.

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